Focus on structure and strategy when building brands

If you look back at the ways major global brands were built, you might ask yourself whether we will ever see such created here. I mean a brand that offers and keeps a promise over an extended period of time, centuries even. A brand that means the same thing to its customers in every region of the world, from Austria to Zimbabwe, and connects with them on both an emotional and rational level.

Brand schizophrenia is endemic in Kenya today and its spread is hastened by the rise of social media specifically and digital communication in general. As long as we have old doyens of industry controlling the purse strings, who are quick to confess that they know absolutely nothing about new media and don’t have the slightest incline to learn about it, then the status quo will prevail.

Social media accounts are thus handed over to millennials, who were practically born with smartphones in their hands. They work without establishing structure and strategy aligned to the business priorities and therefore the digital brand voice sounds one way today, and entirely differently tomorrow.

Without consistency it is difficult to build trust in the marketplace, but those young ones have taken control of the social media accounts and are using a voice that comes to them naturally and then they create content that is appreciated mostly by their peers. Alternatively, a well defined brand structure dictates that a voice that is relevant to the target audience and developing content around their interests should be paramount. 

The other problem that brands face today is the high turnover of marketing staff. Gone are the days that executives stayed in companies for 15 years of more, after which they would receive a wheelbarrow and a fine wrist watch for their long service.  Executives go into companies knowing that they’ll only be there for a short stint, and where there are no solid brand guidelines they will blaze their own trail. The result is a brand that keeps changing its focus every few years, and once again diminishing the trust among its consumer universe. 

These modern day executives also engage in another selfish activity which is personal brand building at the expense of the brand that they are working for. Its not just about going for the low hanging fruit, but more about focusing on the short term gains so that they come out smelling like roses, even if those gains will have negative effects for the brand in future.

Phil Jackson, the Chicago Bulls coach during their championship wins in the 90s, shares some wisdom in his book titled Eleven Rings. He says that there is a difference between serving a ‘goal’ and serving the ‘craft’. When you serve the goal, you spend your time focused on the outcome, mostly looking at reducing cost, increasing speed, and doing it better than the competition. In this mode, the end justifies the means, even if it means taking shortcuts. 

On the other hand, when you serve the craft, you dedicate yourself to doing the best in the task at hand, with the resources and skills that are available to you, and therefore compete against yourself, or your best. Serving the craft may take longer, and cost more, but the final result is usually sustained success.


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